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Gordon Brown is the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He took office on 27 June 2007, three days after becoming leader of the Labour Party. Prior to this he served as the Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1997-2007, becoming the United Kingdom’s longest serving Chancellor since the early 19th century.
“I would like to express my respect and admiration to the Baha’i community which makes a contribution to British life out of all proportion to its size. The principles of the Baha’i faith are rightly shared and appreciated by many in our different communities. It is therefore all the more tragic that Baha’is around the world face prejudice and discrimination. I very much welcome your increased participation in public life and hope you will build on this in the future.”
21 April 2009
The Bahá’í community has a long, proud and respected tradition and contributes much to today’s Britain. Your faith includes a clear obligation to work towards religious tolerance and respect for other faiths, an aim shared by both myself and a wide range of different communities across Britain.
I commend you for promoting an understanding and exploration of your faith to wider British society. The Bahá’í community can be proud of its success in working to foster cohesive and integrated communities.”
21 April 2008
Amír Amín Arslan was a noted Lebanese Druze journalist. In Paris, he founded and edited several Arabic newspapers. He was the Ottoman Consul-General to Brussels and to Buenos Aires, where he died.
“I have had the honour of catching a glimpse of him who is the incarnation of ‘the Word of God’ in the eyes of the Persians. It was in 1891, during a journey that I made to St Jean d’Acre (‘Akká). As soon as I arrived I was eager to pay a visit to ‘Abbás Effendi, the eldest son of ‘the Word’ who was in charge of the external relations of the community. I had known him at Beirut, in Syria, and there had quickly been established between us the bonds of a true friendship.
‘Abbás Effendi received me in the sumptuous palace where he lives with his father, ‘the Word’…Naturally, I solicited from him the honour of an audience with his holy father. He explained to me, in a very kindly manner, that it was not the custom of him who represented the Divinity to admit to his presence unbelieving mortals. Since I insisted, he promised to make every possible effort to bring about the realization of my wish.
Eventually, after three days, I received word that this signal favour had been accorded to me…I thought then that I was going to be able to converse with him who was the reflection on earth of the rays of Divinity, but my illusions were quickly dispersed. I had to content myself with catching a glimpse of the illustrious Bahá’u’lláh at the moment when he came out to take his daily walk in the immense park surrounding his residence. In fact, ‘the Word’ never left the inside of his house except to take a walk in the park in the evening, a time when he could better elude the praying attention of outsiders.
But ‘Abbás Effendi had carefully positioned me behind a part of the wall, along his path, in such a manner that I could easily contemplate him for a short while. I even believe that ‘the Word of God’ had realised the presence of a stranger and had understood that it was a question of granting a favour to a friend. His appearance struck my imagination in such a way that I cannot better represent it than by evoking the image of God the Father, commanding, in his majesty, the elements of nature in the middle of clouds.”
British diplomat Sir Ignatius Valentine Chirol was an author, historian and journalist. He travelled through the Middle East as a correspondent for the Morning Standard, visiting Persia in 1884 and Haifa the following year. He served as the Head of The Times’ Foreign Departmant from 1899 until his retirement in 1912. On his passing, Major-General Sir Neill Malcolm called Chirol, the “friend of viceroys, the intimate of ambassadors, one might almost say the counsellor of ministers, he was [also] one of the noblest characters that ever adorned British journalism.”
“That the movement which bears the apostolic name of the religious martyr who was put to death at Tabriz more than half a century ago is still a living force in Persia is almost universally recognised. But to what extent and in what shape that force is likely to make itself decisively felt opinions differ very largely…
…Socially one of the most interesting features…is the raising of women to a much higher plane than she is usually admitted to in the East. The Bab himself had no more devoted a disciple than the beautiful and gifted lady, known as Kurrat-el-Ain, the ‘Consolation of the Eyes,’ who, having shared all the dangers of the first apostolic missions in the north, challenged and suffered death with virile fortitude…No memory is more deeply venerated or kindles greater enthusiasm than hers, and the influence which she wielded in her lifetime still enures to her sex. That women, whom orthodox Islam barely credits with the possession of a soul, are freely admitted to the meetings of Babis, gives their enemies, the Mullahs, ample occasion to blaspheme. But they have never produced a tittle of evidence in support of the vague charges of immorality they are wont to bring against the followers of the new creed. Communism and socialism are also often imputed to them, and some of them appear to have borrowed from the West the terminology of advanced democracy.”
An English politician and diplomat, Herbert Louis, Viscount Samuel of Carmel, was one of the first Jewish members of the British cabinet. He was perhaps most important as the first British high commissioner for Palestine from 1920-1925.
“It is possible indeed to pick out points of fundamental agreement among all creeds. That is the essential purpose of the Bahá’í Religion, the foundation and growth of which is one of the most striking movements that have proceeded from the East in recent generations…The Bahá’í Faith exists almost for the sole purpose of contributing to the fellowship and the unity of mankind. Other communities may consider how far a particular element of their respective faith may be regarded as similar to those of other communities, but the Bahá’í Faith exists for the purpose of combining in one synthesis all those elements in the various faiths which are held in common.
Its origin was in Persia where a mystic prophet, who took the name of the Báb, the “Gate,” began a mission among the Persians in the earlier part of the nineteenth century. He collected a considerable number of adherents. His activities were regarded with apprehension by the Government of Persia of that day. Finally, he and his leading disciples were seized by the forces of the Persian Government and were shot in the year 1850. In spite of the persecution, the movement spread in Persia and in many countries of Islam. He was followed as the head of the Community by the one who has been its principal prophet and exponent, Bahá’u’lláh. He was most active and despite persecution and imprisonment made it his life’s mission to spread the creed which he claimed to have received by direct divine revelation. He died in 1892 and was succeeded as the head of the Community by his son, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, who was born in 1844. He was living in Haifa, in a simple house, when I went there as High Commissioner in 1920, and I had the privilege of one or two most interesting conversations with him on the principles and methods of the Bahá’í Faith. He died in 1921 and his obsequies were attended by a great concourse of people. I had the honour of representing His Majesty the King on that occasion.
Since that time, the Bahá’í Faith has secured the support of a very large number of communities throughout the world. At the present time it is estimated that there are about eight hundred Bahá’í communities in various countries. In the United States, near Chicago, a great Temple, now approaching completion, has been erected by American adherents of the Faith, with assistance from elsewhere. Shoghi Effendi, the grandson of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, is now the head of the community. He came to England and was educated at Balliol College, Oxford, but now lives in Haifa, and is the center of a community which has spread throughout the world.”
Introductory address delivered at the Bahá’í session of the World Congress of Faiths, held in London, July, 1936
“In 1920 I was appointed as the first High Commissioner for Palestine under the British Mandate, and took an early opportunity of paying a visit to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Effendi at his home in Haifa.I had for some time been interested in the Bahá’í Movement, and felt privileged by the opportunity of making the acquaintance of its head. I had also an official reason as well as a personal one. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had been persecuted by the Turks.A British regime had now been substituted in Palestine for the Turkish. Toleration and respect for all religions had long been a principle of British rule wherever it extended; and the visit of the High Commissioner was intended to be a sign to the population that the adherents of every creed would be able to feel henceforth that they enjoyed the respect and could count upon the good will of the new Government of the land.I was impressed, as was every visitor, by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s dignity, grace and charm. Of moderate stature, his strong features and lofty expression lent to his personality an appearance of majesty. In our conversation he readily explained and discussed the principal tenets of Bahá’í, answered my inquiries and listened to my comments. I remember vividly that friendly interview of sixteen years ago, in the simple room of the villa, surrounded by gardens, on the sunny hillside of Mount Carmel.I was glad I had paid my visit so soon, for in 1921 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá died. I was only able to express my respect for his creed and my regard for his person by coming from the capital to attend his funeral. A great throng had gathered together, sorrowing for his death, but rejoicing also for his life.”
“I have followed it with deep interest ever since my trip to London to the First Races Congress in July 1911, when I heard for the first time of the Baha’i Movement and its summary of the principles for peace. I followed it during the war and after the war. The Baha’i Teaching is one of the spiritual forces now absolutely necessary to put the spirit first in this battle against material forces…
The Baha’i Teaching is one of the great instruments for the final victory of the spirit and of humanity.”
Lieutenant Colonel Sir Francis Younghusband was a British Army officer, explorer and spiritual writer. He is remembered chiefly for his travels in the Far East and Central Asia, and for his writings on Asia and foreign policy. Younghusband held positions including British commissioner to Tibet and President of the Royal Geographic Society. In 1936, he gathered in London the first meeting of the World Congress of Faiths.
“The story of the Báb…was the story of spiritual heroism unsurpassed… If a young man could, in only six years of ministry, by the sincerity of his purpose and the attraction of his personality, so inspire rich and poor, cultured and illiterate, alike with belief in himself and his doctrines that they would remain staunch though hunted down and without trial sentenced to death, sawn asunder, strangled, shot, blown from guns; and if men of high position and culture in Persia, Turkey and Egypt in numbers to this day adhere to his doctrines; his life must be one of those events in the last hundred years which is really worthy of study…”
From The Gleam (1923)
“…the Bahá’í faith exists for almost the sole purpose of contributing to the fellowship and unity of mankind. Other communities might consider how far a particular element of their respective faiths could be regarded as similar to those of other communities. But the Bahá’í faith aimed at combining into one synthesis all those elements in the various faiths which are held in common.”
From A Venture of Faith (1937)
George Nathaniel Curzon – the first Marquess Curzon of Kedleston – was a British Conservative statesman who served as Viceroy of India and Foreign Secretary. His extensive travels – including a year-long sojourn in Persia from 1889-1890, resulted in several books describing central and eastern Asia and related policy issues.
“The lowest estimate places the present number of Bábís in Persia at half a million. I am disposed to think, from conversations with persons well qualified to judge, that the total is nearer one million. They are to be found in every walk of life, from the ministers and nobles of the Court to the scavenger or the groom, not the least arena of their activity being the Mussulman priesthood itself. It will have been noticed that the movement was initiated by Siyyids, Hajis and Mullas, i.e., persons who, either by descent, from pious inclination, or by profession, were intimately concerned with the Muhammadan creed; and it is among even the professed votaries of the faith that they continue to make their converts…
If one conclusion more than another has been forced upon our notice by the retrospect in which I have indulged, it is that a sublime and unmurmuring devotion has been inculcated by this new faith, whatever it be. There is, I believe, but one instance of a Bábí having recanted under pressure of menace of suffering, and he reverted to the faith and was executed within two years. Tales of magnificent heroism illumine the bloodstained pages of Bábí history. Ignorant and unlettered as many of its votaries are, and have been, they are yet prepared to die for their religion, and fires of Smithfield did not kindle a nobler courage than has met and defied the more refined torture-mongers of Tihran. Of no small account, then, must be the tenets of a creed that can awaken in its followers so rare and beautiful a spirit of self-sacrifice. From the facts that Babiism in its earliest years found itself in conflict with the civil powers and that an attempt was made by Bábís upon the life of the Shah, it has been wrongly inferred that the movement was political in origin and Nihilist in character. It does not appear from a study of the writings either of the Báb or his successors, that there is any foundation for such a suspicion…
The charge of immorality seems to have arisen partly from the malignant inventions of opponents, partly from the much greater freedom claimed for women by the Báb, which in the oriental mind is scarcely dissociable from profligacy of conduct…
The pure and suffering life of the Báb, his ignominious death, the heroism and martyrdom of his followers, will appeal to many others who can find no similar phenomena in the contemporaneous records of Islam….”
From Persia, Vol. 1 (1892)
“There is no doubt that your faith’s belief in the breaking down of barriers that separate people is a lesson to us all, as we face the national and international challenges of our day.
The importance you place on principles such as social justice, and the need to tackle prejudice, has stood the test of time. These principles are as vital today as they were a century and a half ago.
May I commend also your belief in the value of individual human initiative, the importance of family life, and the need to strengthen communities and to review and advance society as a whole.”
“The principles which the Bahá’í community hold dear – in particular unity and also the promotion of social justice, a belief in the importance of family life, and a concern for the environment – are of central importance to our society today.
The fact that so much work has been carried out to put these values into practice, through development projects around the world does great credit to your faith.
I know also that you will have in your thoughts at this time those communities elsewhere who face persecution because of their faith. Freedom to worship and to hold religious belief is a fundamental right which we must always cherish.”
“Not only is Ridván an important time for communal prayers and celebration, and for electing local governing councils, but it can also be a time for reflection on the principles which the Bahá’í community holds dear. These principles include unity, the promotion of social justice, a belief in the importance of family life, and a concern for the environment. I know that you will also be thinking of your co-religionists elsewhere who may be facing persecution because of their beliefs.”
Tony Blair was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1997-2007. He was the Labour Party’s longest-serving Prime Minister and the only leader to have taken the party to three consecutive general election victories. On a number of occasions, Mr Blair sent the UK Baháí community messages for the celebration of Naw-Rúz.
On 30 May 2008, Tony Blair launched the Tony Blair Faith Foundation as a vehicle for encouraging different faiths to join together in promoting respect and understanding, as well as working to tackle poverty. Reflecting Blair’s own faith, but not dedicated to any particular religion, the Foundation aims to “show how faith is a powerful force for good in the modern world.”
“I have a clear vision of a multi-cultural Britain – one which values the contribution made by each of our ethnic, cultural and faith communities. I am determined to see a truly dynamic society, in which people from different ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds can live and work together, whilst retaining their distinctive identities, in an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding.
British Baha’is make a significant contribution towards achieving this vision and we are a stronger, better country because of it. It is particularly important that we celebrate the contribution of the Baha’i faith to the stability and prosperity of British Society as a whole.
I am very much encouraged by the vision the Baha’i community demonstrates in recognising the power of interfaith dialogue and the importance of all citizens fulfilling their potential. Your community has a vibrancy which is well demonstrated by the recent opening of the Baha’i Gardens on Mount Carmel in Israel. It is an outstanding monument to your faith.”
21 March 2002
“In many ways, Bahá’ís embody the spirit of community cohesion that is so important to our society. The Bahá’í community, in its outlook on life and in its proactive work in the inter-faith, cohesion and anti-discrimination fields, show how much faith-based bodies can contribute to wider society, and the Government looks forward to continuing our good relationship.”
21 March, 2005
“I warmly commend all that the Baha’i community does for social cohesion and better inter-faith relations, which makes such a valuable contribution to our society. Your commitment to tackling discrimination and promoting our shared humanity is particularly important. I hope that this work will become increasingly well-known.”
21 March 2006
“The United Kingdom deeply values the presence of the Baha’i community and the unique contribution you make. The words of your founder, that “the earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens”, have perhaps an even greater resonance in 2007 than ever before. The universal challenges of climate change, and its potentially disastrous impact on millions of people across the globe, remind us forcefully that we are all fellow citizens of the world, all sharing in its destiny. As we confront these challenges I have no doubt that you, and your fellow Baha’is in other countries, have much to contribute to the debate and the pursuit of possible solutions, drawing on the tradition of working for social justice of which Baha’is can rightly be so proud.”
21 March 2007
Al Gore is an American environmental activitist, author and former politician. He served as the 45th Vice-President of the USA from 1993 to 2001. In his book ‘Earth in the Balance’, he explores the spiritual teachings of world religions concerning planet earth.
“One of the newest of the great universalist religions, Baha’i, founded in 1863 in Persia by Mirza Husayn Ali, warns us not only to properly regard the relationship between humankind and nature but also the one between civilization and the environment. Perhaps because its guiding visions were formed during the period of accelerating industrialism, Baha’i seems to dwell on the spiritual implications of the great transformation to which it bore fresh witness: “We cannot segregate the human heart from the environment outside us and say that once one of these is reformed everything will be improved. Man is organic with the world. His inner life molds the environment and is itself deeply affected by it. The one acts upon the other and every abiding change in the life of man is the result of these mutual reactions.” And, again, from the Baha’i sacred writings comes this: “Civilization, so often vaunted by the learned exponents of arts and sciences will, if allowed to overleap the bounds of moderation, bring great evil upon men.””
From Earth in the Balance, 1993